Spain coach Vicente del Bosque is not expecting any surprises when his side visit Belarus in Sunday’s Euro 2016 qualifier.
Del Bosque’s men take on Belarus in Borisov aiming to keep pace with Group C leaders Slovakia, who stunned Spain to claim a 2-1 win over the reigning European champions in September last year.
Slovakia are three points ahead of Spain at the top of the group and, with Jan Kozak’s men hosting Macedonia, should be able to maintain that position at the top.
Spain have been far from consistent in recent times and were forced to come from behind to see off Costa Rica in a friendly on Thursday that was soured somewhat as Barcelona defender Gerard Pique was booed by the home fans in Leon.
Ukraine – who face Luxembourg – are just three points adrift of Spain in third, meaning that a slip-up in Belarus could be especially costly for Del Bosque’s side.
Yet Spain have won all three of the meetings between themselves and Belarus – including a 3-0 success in the reverse qualifier in November.
And Del Bosque said: “We aren’t expecting a trap. This is serious football and we aren’t expecting any setbacks. We’ve played at poor and difficult grounds before.”
However, the visitors will be without versatile wing back Aleix Vidal after Barca’s newest signing picked up an ankle injury in his senior international debut against Costa Rica.
“He [Vidal] has an ankle injury and I don’t think he’ll be fit to face Belarus,” Del Bosque added.
Belarus’ hopes of qualification look to have already disappeared following a dismal start to their campaign.
A disappointing draw with Luxembourg set the tone for a dreadful run of form that saw the eastern European side suffer three straight qualifying defeats before Belarus overcame Macedonia 2-1 in March.
That sequence of results has left Belarus eight points adrift of Spain in the second automatic qualification spot and five adrift of third-placed Ukraine.
The hosts will need a remarkable turnaround to bridge that gap, but Belarus coach Aleksandr Khatskevich is upbeat his side can surprise Spain.
He is quoted as saying by UEFA.com: “I will accept any result as long as there are no half-hearted players in the team.
“Of course Spain are better than us in every aspect but we can fight them with our team game and try to exploit their weaknesses. And they have those weaknesses, trust me.”